Victorian Jewelry Symbolism
& It's Secretive Language
Symbolism in jewelry is hardly uncommon, yet we often forget the complex language behind it. We use symbols very commonly today in modern jewelry, yet not nearly as intimately as in prior time periods. In present day you will see embellished hearts conveying love, personalized zodiac signs, religious symbols, gender, and cremation jewelry to name a few. But we don't always know where these romantic, magical, spiritual, endearing, audacious, blessed, grieving & gleeful symbols were brought about and represented at their best.
"When I carved this, my thoughts were on you, love. Your life is like this snake's coils. No matter how many turns it makes, you'll end up back where you belong. With me." -Maria V. Snyder
A very popular feminine symbol in the Victorian era was the mystical crescent moon & star motif, traditionally embellished with rhinestones & seed pearls.
A very simple yet compassionate Victorian jewelry token was the swallow bird. The Victorian era was the first to be so highly influenced by Romanticism in its jewelry fabrication.
Rhinestones & gemstones were placed in Victorian jewelry with much care & thought. Jewelry pieces sometimes contained color coded messages with each color standing for a letter, which spelled out a kind word for loved ones.
One of the more masculine images in Victorian jewelry is the mythological creature the legendary griffin. The majestic fabled griffin guards invaluable belongings, riches, gold, and jewels in folklore. Fictitious griffin emblems in Victorian jewelry personified fearlessness, bravery, courage, and diligent vigilance.
Two of the most prevalent icons that represented good fortune in Victorian jewelry were the lucky horseshoe & clover leaf.
"For each petal on the shamrock. This brings a wish your way. Good health, good luck, and happiness, for today and every day." -Irish Blessing
One of the more heartbreaking and sentimental jewelry fashion statements in the Victorian age was mourning Jewelry.
Black enamel, onyx, gold finishes, white pearls for tears, and different shades of hair embodied death and the departed in Victorian mourning jewelry. It sweetly lamented the loss of the beloved, before the age of photographs and proper burials.
"For happiness one needs security, but joy can spring like a flower even from the cliffs of despair." -Anne Morrow Lindbergh
An enchanting expression in Victorian jewelry was the buckle motif, found in Victorian pendants, bracelets, and rings.
..."The pearls weren't really white, they were a warm oyster beige, with little knots in between so if they broke, you only lost one. I wished my life could be like that, knotted up so that even if something broke, the whole thing wouldn't come apart..." -Janet Fitch
And a sweet ending to our coverage of Victorian symbolism in jewelry is the light hearted token, buttercups. There are endless floral motif symbols in Victorian jewelry, but perhaps none as favorable as the delightful, buoyant, sweet, and simplistic, golden yellow buttercup flower.
There is a vast array of symbols used in Victorian jewelry and this blog post has only touched on a few of those mysterious symbols. We hope this unleashes your symbolism curiosity, makes you want to find out about those Victorian family heirloom pieces you inherited or the vintage piece of jewelry you just bought. Perhaps it will even inspire a vintage jewelry treasure hunt to acquire that special piece with a meaning that rings true to your heart!
Symbolism- "An artistic and poetic movement or style using symbolic images and indirect suggestion to express mystical ideas, emotions, and states of mind."
The Victorians certainly perfected this art form and took symbolism in jewelry making to a whole other level. Their hidden language is so beautifully conveyed in their timeless pieces, that we gratefully admire and humbly respect.
"...The stars about the lovely moon, fade back and vanish very soon, when round and full, her silver face swims into sight, and lights all space..." -Sappho
"...Within a hush, in spring's expectant air, susurrus sound is distant heralding- White wings bright the sky, recite the prayer of swallows fierce and fragile homecoming..." -SoftlyFalling
"...Half-eagle, half-lion, the fabulous animal struts, saber-clawed but saintly..." -Henri Cole
Wearing horseshoe & clover Victorian Jewelry was an attractive common superstitious practice. It was said to help ward off demons, hardships, misfortune, and protect from evil spirits. It was thought to bring the owner success, harmony, and many blessings.
Something more on the macabre and morbid side is Victorian mourning with human hair, made into a piece of jewelry worn in remembrance. It was a popular thing to use a deceased loved ones hair to eternalize their soul in a keepsake portion of personal jewelry.
"Here she lies, a pretty bud,
Lately made of flesh and blood:
Who as soon as fell fast asleep
As her little eyes did peep.
Give her strewings, but not stir
The earth that lightly covers her." -Robert Herrick
The dainty little buttercup is one of the sweetest Victorian symbols. It truly embodies all things jovial, pleasant, and attractive when worn. Buttercups represent happiness, merriment, pure bliss & glee. Such a copious amount of positivity in one itty bitty delightful blossom!
"All that in this delightful garden grows should happy be and have immortal bliss."
- Edmund Spencer, The Faerie Queen